DIVISION OF OFFENSES.
§ 5. Characters of the five classes.
LXI. It has been mentioned as an advantage possessed by this method, and
not possessed by any other, that the objects comprised under it are cast into
groups, to which a variety of propositions may be applied in common. A
collection of these propositions, as applied to the several classes, may be
considered as exhibiting the distinctive characters of each class. So many of
these propositions as can be applied to the offences belonging to any given
class, so many properties are they found to have in common: so many of these
common properties as may respectively be attributed to them, so many properties
may be set down to serve as characters of the class. A collection of
these characters it may here be proper to exhibit. The more of them we can
bring together, the more clearly and fully will the nature of the several
classes, and of the offences they are composed of, be understood.
LXII. Characters of Class 1; composed of PRIVATE
offences, or offences against assignable individuals.
When arrived at their last stage (the stage of consumation) they produce, all of them, a primary mischief
as well as a secondary.
The individuals whom they affect in the first instance are constantly assignable. This extends
to all; to attempts and preparations, as well as to such as have
arrived at the stage of consummation.
Consequently they admit of compensation: in which they differ from the offences of all
the other classes, as such.
They admit also of
retaliation; in which also they
differ from the offences of all the other classes.
- There is always some person who has a natural and peculiar interest to
prosecute them. In this they differ from self-regarding offences: also from
semi-public and public ones; except in as far as the two latter may chance to
involve a private mischief.
- The mischief they produce is obvious: more so than that of semi-public
offences: and still more so than that of self-regarding ones, or even public.
- They are every where, and must ever be, obnoxious to the censure of the
world: more so than semi-public offences as such; and still more so than public
They are more constantly obnoxious to the censure of the world than
self-regarding offences: and would be so universally, were it not for the
influence of the two false principles; the principle of asceticism, and the
principle of antipathy.
They are less apt than semi-public and public offences to require different
descriptions in different states and
countries: in which respect they are much upon a par with self-regarding ones.
- By certain circumstances of aggravation, they are liable to be transformed
into semi-public offences; and by certain others, into public.
- There can be no ground for punishing them, until they can be proved to have
occasioned, or to be about to occasion some particular mischief to some
particular individual. In this they differ from semi-public offences, and from
In slight cases, compensation given to the individual affected by
them may be a sufficient ground for remitting punishment: for if the primary
mischief has not been sudicient to produce any alarm, the whole of the mischief
may be cured by compensation. In this also they differ from semi-public
offences, and from public ones.
LXIII. Characters of Class 2; composed of SEMI-PUBLIC
offences, or offences affecting a whole subordinate class of persons.
- As such, they produce no primary mischief. The mischief they produce
consists of one or other or both branches of the secondary mischief produced by
offences against individuals, without the primary.
- In as far as they are to be considered as belonging to this class, the
persons whom they affect in the first instance are not individually assignable.
- They are apt, however, to involve or terminate in some primary mischief of
the first order; which when they do, they advance into the first class, and
become private offences.
- They admit not, as such, of compensation.
- Nor of retaliation.
- As such, there is never any one particular individual whose exclusive
interest it is to prosecute them: a circle of persons may, however, always be
marked out, within which may be found some who have a greater interest to
prosecute than any who are out of that circle have.
- The mischief they produce is in general pretty obvious: not so much so
indeed as that of private offences, but more so upon the whole than that of
self-regarding and public ones.
- They are rather less obnoxious to the censure of the world than private
offences; but they are more so than public ones: they would also be more so
than self-regarding ones, were it not for the influence of the two false
principles, the principle of sympathy and antipathy, and that of asceticism.
- They are more apt than private and self-regarding offences to require
different descriptions in different countries: but less so than public ones.
- There may be ground for punishing them before they have been proved to
have occasioned, or to be about to occasion, mischief to any particular
individual; which is not the case with private offences.
- In no cases can satisfaction given to any particular individual affected
by them be a sufficient ground for remitting punishment: for by such
satisfaction it is but a part of the mischief of them that is cured. In this
they differ from private offences; but agree with public.
LXIV. Characters of Class 3; consisting of SELF
REGARDING offences: offences against one's self.
In individual instances it will often be questionable, whether they are
productive of any primary mischief at
all: secondary, they produce none.
- They affect not any other individuals, assignable or not assignable, except
in as far as they affect the offender himself; unless by possibility in
particular cases; and in a very slight and distant manner the whole state.
They admit not, therefore, of compensation.
Nor of retaliation.
No person has naturally any peculiar interest to prosecute them: except in
as far as in virtue of some connection he may have with the offender,
either in point of sympathy or of interest, a mischief of the derivative kind may happen to devolve upon him.
The mischief they produce is apt to be unobvious and in general more
questionable than that of any of the other classes.
- They are however apt, many of them, to be more obnoxious to the censure of
the world than public offences; owing to the influence of the two false
principles; the principle of asceticism, and the principle of antipathy. Some
of them more even than semi-public, or even than private offence.
They are less apt than offences of any other class to require different
descriptions in different states and countries.
Among the inducements to punish
them, antipathy against the offender is apt to have a greater share than
sympathy for the public.
- The best plea for punishing them is founded on a faint probability there
may be of their being productive of a mischief, which, if real, will place them
in the class of public ones: chiefly in those divisions of it which are
composed of offences against population, and offences against the national
LXV. Characters of Class 4; consisting of PUBLIC
offences, or offences against the state in general.
As such, they produce not any primary mischief; and the secondary mischief
they produce, which consists frequently of danger without alarm, though great
in value, is in specie very indeterminate.
- The individuals whom they affect, in the first instance, are constantly
unassignable; except in as far as by accident they happen to involve or
terminate in such or such offences against individuals.
- Consequently they admit not of compensation.
- Nor of retaliation.
- Nor is there any person who has naturally any particular interest to
prosecute them; except in as far as they appear to affect the power, or in any
other manner the private interest, of some person in authority.
- The mischief they produce, as such, is comparatively unobvious; much more
so than that of private offences, and more so likewise, than that of
- They are, as such, much less obnoxious to the censure of the world, than
private offences; less even than semi-public, or even than self-regarding
offences; unless in particular cases, through sympathy to certain persons in
authority, whose private interests they may appear to affect.
- They are more apt than any of the other classes to admit of different
descriptions, in different states and countries.
- They are constituted, in many cases, by some circumstances of aggravation
superadded to a private offence: and therefore, in these cases, involve the
mischief and exhibit the other characters belonging to both classes. They are
however, even in such cases, properly enough ranked in the 4th class, inasmuch
as the mischief they produce in virtue of the properties which aggregate them
to that class, eclipses and swallows up that which they produce in virtue of
those properties which aggregate them to the 1st.
There may be sufficient ground for punishing them, without their being
proved to have occasioned, or to be about to occasion, any particular mischief
to any particular individual. In this they differ from private offences, but
agree with semi-public ones. Here, as in semi-public offences, the
extent of the mischief makes up for the uncertainty of it.
- In no case can satisfaction, given to any particular individual affected by
them, be a sufficient ground for remitting punishment. In this they differ from
private offences; but agree with semi-public.
LXVI. Characters of Class 5, or appendix: composed of
MULTIFORM or ANOMALOUS offences; and containing offences by FALSEHOOD, and
offences concerning TRUST.
- Taken collectively, in the parcels marked out by their popular
appellations, they are incapable of being aggregated to any systematical method
of distribution, grounded upon the mischief of the offence.
- They may, however, be thrown into sub-divisions, which may be aggregated to
such a method of distribution.
- These sub-divisions will naturally and readily rank under the divisions of
the several preceding classes of this system.
- Each of the two great divisions of this class spreads itself in that manner
over all the preceding classes.
In some acts of this class, the distinguishing circumstance which
constitutes the essential character of the offence, will in some instances
enter necessarily, in the character of a criminative circumstance, into the
constitution of the offence; insomuch that, without the intervention of this
circumstance, no offence at all, of that denomination, can be committed. In other instances, the offence may subsist
without it; and where it interferes, it comes in as an accidental independent
circumstance, capable of constituting a ground of aggravation.
111. Supra, lviii.
112. Ch. vii. [Actions] xiv.
113. See ch. xii. [Consequences]
114. That is, by their primary mischief.
115. See supra, xxxi note, and B. I. tit. [Accessory
116. See ch. xiii. [Cases unmeet] ii. note.
117. I mean, that retaliation is capable of
being applied in the cases in question, not that it ought always to be
employed. Nor is it capable of being applied in every individual
instance of each offence, but only in some individual instance of each
species of offence.
118. See ch. xv. [Properties] viii.
119. Ch. ii. [Principles
120. It seems to be from their possessing these three
last properties, that the custom has arisen of speaking of them, or at least of
many of them, under the name of offences against the law of nature: a
vague expression. and productive of a multitude of inconveniences. See ch. ii.
[Principles adverse| xiv. note.
121. Because the person, who in general is most likely
to be sensible to the mischief (if there is any) of any offence, viz. the
person whom it most affects, shows by his conduct that he is not sensible of
122. See ch. vi. [Sensibility] xxv. xxvi.
123. See ch. xii. [Consequences] iv.
124. Among the offences, however, which belong to this
class there are some which in certain countries it is not uncommon for persons
to be disposed to prosecute without any artificial inducement, and merely on
account of an antipathy, which such acts are apt to excite. See ch. ii.
[Principles adverse] xi.
125. See note 1 in the preceding page.
126. Accordingly, most of them are apt to be ranked
among offences against the law of nature. Vide supra, Characters of the 1st
class, lxii. note.
127. I mean the considerations, right or wrong, which
induce or dispose the legislator to treat them on the footing of offences.
128. Instance, offences by falsehood, in the case of
129. Instance, offences by falsehood, in the case of
simple corporal injuries, and other offences against person.
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